“I’ve been told the oil companies might try to assassinate me.”
January 11, 2008 3:06 AM   Subscribe

64-year-old Frank Pringle has figured out a way to extract oil and natural gas out of nearly anything.
posted by divabat (66 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
How much energy is required to drive the process?
posted by PenDevil at 3:28 AM on January 11, 2008


Yeah but how's he gonna fit that tire into the oven?
posted by romanb at 3:29 AM on January 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


And how much energy is extracted? Because I have a sneaking suspicion the net outcome is negative.
posted by PenDevil at 3:30 AM on January 11, 2008


His partner is called Hawk Hogan... Hudson Hawk Hogan, perhaps?
posted by benzo8 at 3:30 AM on January 11, 2008


Finally, it's Mr. Fusion!
posted by fandango_matt at 3:34 AM on January 11, 2008


It does make sense that there are hydrocarbons locked up in otherwise unrecyclable plastics, but he does give off crank whiff.
posted by hoverboards don't work on water at 3:35 AM on January 11, 2008


did someone tell the president yet?
posted by mimikachu at 3:37 AM on January 11, 2008


Partial answer to the energy question is in the second paragraph:

Every hour, the first commercial version will turn 10 tons of auto waste—tires, plastic, vinyl—into enough natural gas to produce 17 million BTUs of energy (it will use 956,000 of those BTUs to keep itself running).
posted by Happy Dave at 3:38 AM on January 11, 2008 [2 favorites]


And how much energy is extracted? Because I have a sneaking suspicion the net outcome is negative.

Dude, it's right there in the second paragraph.

Every hour, the first commercial version will turn 10 tons of auto waste—tires, plastic, vinyl—into enough natural gas to produce 17 million BTUs of energy (it will use 956,000 of those BTUs to keep itself running).
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 3:39 AM on January 11, 2008 [4 favorites]


We can already extract gas from bituminous coal, albeit with not especially impressive efficiency. How does it comparee with that?

PenDevil: Are you asking that from an informed perspective? Do you have some data, chemistry background, etc? I'd be interested to see some figures, plus some breakdown of any energy storage/waste reduction benefits.
posted by biffa at 3:46 AM on January 11, 2008


Frank figured how to extracted energy from..... energy. Power must be available to extract. If I eat pure fat, power is available, but the pump will fail sooner.
posted by Mblue at 3:53 AM on January 11, 2008


This is just another type of thermal depolymerisation, which is a well known technology.
posted by atrazine at 3:57 AM on January 11, 2008


This is apparently their website; here's the data on tires.
posted by Nahum Tate at 3:57 AM on January 11, 2008


Breaking down halogenated hydrocarbons can produce some really toxic, uh, halogenated hydrocarbons. How does this guy control the toxic pollution produced by breaking down PVC, for example? A lot of recycling/waste-to-energy schemes have this problem and it is not easy to solve.
posted by tommyD at 4:15 AM on January 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


This is EXACTLY what the world needs to reduce catastrophic global warming. Oh wait...
posted by crowman at 4:22 AM on January 11, 2008


I see you've mentioned that he's 64. Should we send him a valentine? Birthday greetings? Bottle of wine?
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:47 AM on January 11, 2008 [12 favorites]


crowman: If it stops us from digging up more carbon from underground and burning it, it's a gain. Aside from particulate and other forms of pollution, it's not really an issue to burn stuff that's already in the active carbon cycle.

Of course, it's far better from that standpoint to do this sort of thing with biological material that will break down in a relatively short time, thus emitting greenhouse gases, rather than plastics and whatnot. However, so long as you don't burn the recovered hydrocarbons, it is again not an issue.
posted by wierdo at 4:49 AM on January 11, 2008


This is not the same as the free energy or perpetual motion machine posts. This is about a process that converts one form of potentially consumable energy to another form of potentially consumable form of energy. It's about as woo woo (as in not woo woo) as gears, levers and chains, except at a more chemical/mechanical process type of level.

That it consumes about 1/17 of the total energy converted is notable, I guess, though I'm not familiar with other conversion energy costs.

The problem this addresses is that in general we do not have engines that directly consume tires, shale, drill cuttings, waste oil, dredge, potentially environment disaster cleanup products, or whatever directly, so if we wanted to utilize those materials as well to feed our petrochemical addiction, we now have an alternate source of recoverable materials from other sources (that we previously treated simply as waste).

Currently these now-claimed-to-be-recoverable materials are spending a lot of time in various states of waste storage or industrial recycling. There is a potential here to change a lot of that waste to simple carbon (which I think but am not entirely sure is carbon-neutral from the point of view of the ecology - you could probably mix it with soil and be done with it, since that's what happens during forest fires), metallic by products (recyclable?) and two forms of fuel that traditionally create greenhouse gases when consumed (though at least for natural gas, that may change with the widespread advent of fuel cell power generators - with a byproduct of CO2 and H2O).
posted by kalessin at 5:10 AM on January 11, 2008 [3 favorites]


Meh, can he run his car on water?
posted by Pollomacho at 5:12 AM on January 11, 2008


This is wild. Skeptics and naysayers, read the freakin' article, already. It ain't that long.

It does not address, however, the enivronmental issue.

This guy is gonna be a kajillionaire.
posted by flotson at 5:19 AM on January 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


Not sure if this would integrate well with his machine but one solution for dealing with the toxic byproducts might be some kind of clay-based filter. I met a man who had been creating adobe or clay based kilns in Mexico that were designed to burn tires at an extremely high heat for making bricks (they were already using tires anyway, so he designed a kiln that burned them more efficiently). The clay of the kiln trapped a lot of the toxic chemicals.
posted by Deathalicious at 5:38 AM on January 11, 2008


And how much energy is extracted? Because I have a sneaking suspicion the net outcome is negative.

The net outcome is negative, but you have to also include the energy that went into making all of that plastic (and whatever else goes into the machine) in the first place.

(All numbers in the following paragraph were found under my chair, and are only meant to illustrate a point.)

Say it takes 20 barrels of oil to make a bunch of plastic. Now you've got a bunch of plastic. You can stop there, your 20 barrels of oil are gone, and you can dump the plastic in a landfill when you're done with it. Or, you can feed it into this machine and get back, say 17 barrels of oil, one of which goes to power the machine. Your bunch of plastic is gone, but you've got 16 barrels of oil again. Net loss of 4 barrels of oil, but you got to use the plastic in the meantime for whatever you wanted it for, and now you've got some oil you can use for something else instead of just a bunch of plastic sitting in a landfill taking up space.
posted by Caviar at 5:45 AM on January 11, 2008 [4 favorites]


This has always sounded unfortunately like VaPooRize to me.

WHERE DOES THE POO GO!?!?!
posted by butterstick at 5:46 AM on January 11, 2008


Heh. Unfortunately, now "the page can not be found". I think the oil industry took care of him.
posted by beagle at 5:50 AM on January 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


previously?
posted by jepler at 5:52 AM on January 11, 2008


Out of anything?

PRINGE OIL IS PEOPLE! IT'S PEEEOOPPLLLE!
posted by Astro Zombie at 5:55 AM on January 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


There's always a tail pipe. The POO goes up, like any hot gas.
SSSSSSSSSSSSSSmelly at the right altitude. Visible to the left.
posted by Mblue at 5:56 AM on January 11, 2008


I won't insist you RTFA, but how about the first couple paragraphs, huh? RTFFCP.

Sounds too good to be true, but it also sounds worth exploring. If it can cut down on landfill use and make more fuel available, it sounds like a win. If the break down process is crazy toxic and does a mess of polluting, then points are lost.
posted by EatTheWeak at 5:56 AM on January 11, 2008 [2 favorites]


No, no, EatTheWeak. This mind-boggingly useful and beneficial idea does not instantly work perfectly in its very first stage of development. Clearly, it's a waste of time.

Let's all go kill science with religion and alcohol now.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 6:10 AM on January 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


This is EXACTLY what the world needs to reduce catastrophic global warming. Oh wait...

If he can break down cellulose, then yeah, this would help.
posted by delmoi at 6:12 AM on January 11, 2008


All the people claiming that this is a hoax, or too good to be true or whatever are kind of silly. Yeah, there are a lot of alternative energy hoaxes out there, but this thing has been around a while, getting press here and there. It's not a hoax. One problem might be the cost. If a barrel of Oil out of this machine costs $200, even if it's a net energy positive it still won't be commercially viable, unless the guy also makes money for disposing of the waste. In that case, it will always be small scale.
posted by delmoi at 6:15 AM on January 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


A stooped old man stands in the center of a spotlight on a darkened stage holding a chunk of granite in his slender, straining hands. He struggles to raise it to chest level, staggering slightly under the weight of it. Suddenly he throws it to the stage and shouts into the darkness, "Hey look, everyone! I got oil from this rock! From this ROCK!"

Flares shoot into the sky from behind the old man and heavy metal guitars crank up like chainsaws. Lars Ulrich wags his finger at music pirates from behind a suspended drumcage manaufactured by orphans. The corpse of Randy Rhoads shudders out from behind a tattered black velour curtain and starts a classical guitar solo at twice normal speed!

That's the way news like this should be unveiled, really. This is tremendous.
posted by Pecinpah at 6:18 AM on January 11, 2008 [9 favorites]


Aside from particulate and other forms of pollution, it's not really an issue to burn stuff that's already in the active carbon cycle.

Yeh, but most of this stuff isn't already in the active carbon cycle. It's locked up in plastics. This would release it into the atmosphere.

Kalessin's use of the phrase "feed our petrolium addiction" is apt.

Part of me says "shit, this is neat!" Part of me objects to Kalessin's objection about the lack of "woo-woo" by pointing out that some of the most revolutionary stuff is really mundane -- a new and in retrospect often obvious application of existing tech. (The Internet, for example, or the moveable type printing press.)

But I have to admit that it does feed the cycle. The pragmatist in me says it's a great invention. The idealist and the realist sit there face-palming and kneading their brows.
posted by lodurr at 6:19 AM on January 11, 2008


This actually could work. This isn't the same as your typical wild-eyed perpetual motion machine guy. Rather, he's liberating (some of) the energy that was stored in the manufacture of the original goods. He's not getting something from nothing; rather, he's tapping some of the latent energy in garbage, which would otherwise be wasted by dumping into landfills.

As others are saying, there are all kinds of other potential gotchas here, but this isn't a perpetual motion machine, and could theoretically do exactly what he promises.
posted by Malor at 6:19 AM on January 11, 2008


Meanwhile, how come this site is still up? (Previously on MeFi here and here.)
posted by Termite at 6:32 AM on January 11, 2008


Changing World Technologies (I know, cheesy name) has had a thermal depolymerization plant running in Carthage, Missouri, for a few years now. News about how well they're doing in scarce; it's a private company. But it was a process that attracted investors and has been selling oil on the market.

Due to the lack of news, it's hard to tell how far this technology is in helping us out, or how much Pringle's take on it would better the process. One thing is that there's no mention of any industrial scale model; attention to the details of actually building a plant will attract investors.
posted by suckerpunch at 7:04 AM on January 11, 2008


I'm confused about what you mean by 'industrial scale plant.' Sounds like both the examples (Pringle's and the one you cite) have that. Do you mean something more?
posted by lodurr at 7:23 AM on January 11, 2008


Don't disregard this simply because it doesn't have all the answers. In the future we're going to see hydrocarbons provided from a variety of heterogeneous processes. What might be cheap for someone to do in China next to tire recycling plant may not be the same for someone living in Utah. The problem with this process, as the plant that converts oil from all those turkey parts in Missouri, is that this isn't very scalable. Different compositions need slightly different settings and at large output levels the technology isn't quite perfected. It requires a lot of work, beyond the simple back of the paper calculations of BTU in and BTU out. This is no longer oil in Saudi Arabia where you put a pipe in the ground and oil just kind of comes up.

Right now oil companies are rushing to find technology to extract oil from existing wells that were no longer viable, such as long as the California coast, to shale extraction and everything else. They are looking for the most environmentally friendly technology first and working their way down. Oil is going to eventually come down in price as all the current investment catches up, but no one wants to be caught with their dick in their hand and several hundred million in some process that is actually more expensive in terms of environment and long-term extraction than another method.

Keep in mind that it costs something like $1-2 to extract a barrel of oil from wells in the Middle East and elsewhere. Even though oil is $100ppb now, a sudden demand drop and you have a lot of oil still being pumped really cheap. Suddenly a process like this that costs an oil company $30 a barrel looks really expensive if prices were $40 and Saudi Arabia is still pumping at margins of $1-2.

The point I'm trying to make is that while this is all interesting, there are no real technology breakthroughs. Yes we know we can create oil, but we want to do it for really, really cheap. Who wants to burden the risk of investing in something that requires Saudi Arabia to simply turn up the spigot and poof, your $500 million plant is suddenly worth nothing and you're operating in the red everyday. While Saudi Arabia may only be able to keep production at that capacity for a few years, or even a few months, it is enough to drive all these young kids out of the market given the high capital costs.
posted by geoff. at 7:28 AM on January 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


65-year-old Dr. Emmett Brown invents "Mr. Fusion", a device which uses household trash to generate the 1.21 gigawatts needed to power the flux capacitor.
posted by edverb at 7:49 AM on January 11, 2008


Geoff, you're sort of dancing around the most fundamental of all problems: the energy in oil pays off at about 10:1. For every dollar of energy we put in, we get ten dollars out.

All other forms of energy have to deal the fact that the oil industry is running off extracting its power from a giant chemical battery, one that's been charging for millions of years. It's gonna be awfully hard to get a 10:1 return from any other sources without going to non-renewable energy, like nuclear.

Power is going to get a lot more expensive unless we can figure out fusion, and that means badly declining living standards in most first-world countries.
posted by Malor at 7:49 AM on January 11, 2008 [2 favorites]


What do you mean by 10:1? If oil comes from CO2 injection of wells versus water injection, doesn't that change the ratios? Perhaps I'm just misunderstanding you, but technology improvements on the utilization of oil on both ends can help keep a high ratio. Even oil wells have highly variable levels of how much it costs. When it is first tapped nothing is even injected (this may and probably has changed now due to all the big wells have been found). Then economic costs (which are roughly equivalent to energy, correct?) begin to rise?

Long-term, yes, we'll need fusion and other forms of exotic energy generation. In the short-term I think it the quality of living standards of third world, or at least some, countries are going to improve with the capital investment and extraction of oil at $100/barrel in far flung parts of the world. Look at China's development of roads for "free" in Africa. We can argue if this will hurt or harm the third world, but oil consumption by these countries are so low right now that I can't imagine the rising price of oil hurts them more than the rising price of any other commodity.
posted by geoff. at 8:04 AM on January 11, 2008


All the people claiming that this is a hoax, or too good to be true or whatever are kind of silly.

Perhaps a little, but still not nearly as silly as the alleged inventor saying "the oil companies are trying to assassinate me." Even if he doesn't take the idea seriously, he ought to know better than to mention it when talking to the press, as it does tend to lead the less-insane of those who read the resulting article to quickly suspect that the merits of the technology are largely based on fantasy.
posted by sfenders at 8:04 AM on January 11, 2008


Yes we know we can create oil, but we want to do it for really, really cheap. Who wants to burden the risk of investing in something that requires Saudi Arabia to simply turn up the spigot and poof, your $500 million plant is suddenly worth nothing and you're operating in the red everyday.

People will pay more for "recycled environmentally-friendly" oil. It just needs to be marketed properly. This oil isn't competing with oil in the Middle East, it's competing with other technologies that aren't as cheap as oil.
posted by Caviar at 8:31 AM on January 11, 2008


delmoi:All the people claiming that this is a hoax, or too good to be true or whatever are kind of silly.
kalessin:This is not the same as the free energy or perpetual motion machine posts.
Well, sort of. No one's claiming to do an end-run around the laws of physics in this case, but PopSci has been running stories exactly like this one (New process for turning waste into oil!) for years. Some of which do indeed involve some questionable physics, and none of which (so far) have really amounted to much.

That's just the way PopSci is, and has (AFAIK) always been. The mere appearance of (insert whiz-bang new tech/gizmo here) in its pages is enough to make some people (like me) skeptical.
posted by Western Infidels at 8:33 AM on January 11, 2008


PopSci Blue.
posted by Mister_A at 8:58 AM on January 11, 2008


64-year-old Frank Pringle has figured out a way to extract oil and natural gas out of nearly anything.

This is very intriguing, and I have done my own experiments on myself and it seems to work: go to the bathroom, stand in front of the mirror, under a bright light, and squeeze your nose. Although not a lot of gas will be produces, a lot of oil will be. I use it to heat my house.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:32 AM on January 11, 2008


After much searching of the web, I managed to find just one web page that reports on this in an somewhat reasonable way. The Energy Blog, July 2007:

"This could well be another company that is more PR than actual content. Their frequent press releases and flowery claims certainly makes one suspect. However their sale of a, I presume very small, unit to Gershow and the inclusion in New Scientist and in DOE's report give the company some credibility. Certainly if they could live up to their claims they have a technology worth considering. We will just have to wait to see the results of the Gershow project."

Unfortunately, the Global Resource Corp web page itself makes it look very much like the typical "free energy" scam, even though the theory is more plausible than most. The "Engineering Data" page is remarkably free of actual data or any kind of convincing evidence that it's better than other thermal depolymerization processes, or for that matter that it works at all. That they're a publically-traded company with so little in the way of results also adds substantially in my mind to the probability that there's nothing real there.
posted by sfenders at 9:41 AM on January 11, 2008


sfenders: .... but still not nearly as silly as the alleged inventor saying "the oil companies are trying to assassinate me."

Jesus fucking christ. Get a sense of humor, willya?

And while you're at it, don't misquote. Unless it makes the joke funnier.
posted by lodurr at 10:02 AM on January 11, 2008


I am laughing, but not out loud.
posted by sfenders at 10:16 AM on January 11, 2008


They consumed 10 tons of "tires, plastic, vinyl" to make 17 million BTU. That works out to 850 BTU/lb. The information I see on tire-derived fuel, which is burning of shredded tires, puts its output at around 15,000 BTU/lb. The only advantage I can see here is that this turns the into gas or liquid fuel.

What are the constraints on the fuels, can it contain metal?

Even forgetting the science questions an article like this misses, what about the business questions? What's the cost? What is the market for the output of this machine, or do I need to consume this energy in the form it creates myself?
posted by betaray at 10:50 AM on January 11, 2008


I'm laughing out loud, but only because I already built a machine that converts matter to energy. It's a smallish sun I built in my basement. Originally I was just going to use it as a sort of garbage disposal, then I realized it worked great as a heat source, now I'm using it to power my home.

I am a little concerned about how much it's grown: at first it was about the size of a marble, now it's roughly as big as a basket-ball.

The scientist from the local community college freaked out when he saw it. He kept screaming something about this being an 'extinction level event' or something. I would have worried about it a lot more, but he tripped and fell into it, and that shut him up pretty quick.

I don't see what the big deal is; I mean, it's a quickly growing heat source that will instantly devour anything that comes in contact with it. What is the worst that could happen?
posted by quin at 10:50 AM on January 11, 2008 [2 favorites]


The chips weren't enough for Mr. Pringle? He had to take on the oil companies, too? When will he learn, when will he learn?

I can see him now, face down in a pool of crude, a spud in every orifice...
posted by tommasz at 11:09 AM on January 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


Ad at the bottom of the page before I signed in:
"Oil hits $100 a barrel. Are you making money?"

Somebody at google ads has a twisted sense of humor.
posted by Hactar at 11:10 AM on January 11, 2008


New York - Oil and gasoline futures fell sharply today as word spread that Global Resource Corp's High-Frequency Attenuating Wave Kinetics technology will soon free America of its need for foreign oil imports.

Commenting on the new technology, one industry analyst said "Jesus fucking christ." GRC's klystron machinery for gasifying hydrocarbons has the potential to revolutionize the oil and gas industries and substantially increase worldwide production. It may also cure cancer.

Light, sweet crude for February delivery fell to $92.60 on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
posted by sfenders at 12:03 PM on January 11, 2008


geoff: What I meant was that, over the long span of oil extraction, we get back about 10 units of energy for every unit we spend extracting. This means that we don't have to pay for 90% of our energy. All other energy sources, except nuclear, require that we actually generate the energy we provide. Worse, because of inefficiencies, we have to generate MORE, because of waste.

In the oil economy, we spend 1 unit to get 10 usable units provided to end-users. In a renewable economy, using hydrogen as a transport, we would have to spend about 3 energy units to get 1, maybe more... a 3:1 ratio would be fabulously efficient. So, very roughly, energy in a hydrogen economy would be thirty times as expensive as in the old, oil-flavored one. At least. Maybe more.

That's what I'm talking about when I mention competitiveness... it's awfully hard to compete with a 10:1 free energy source.

This means, in very short form, that unless we come up with some very impressive new sources of energy, civilization as we know it will change dramatically.

This doesn't mean the sky is falling. We do still have lots of oil, although the supply is diminishing. Gradually, it's going to take more and more and more power to generate the same amount of output oil, as the giant chemical battery dries up. This can potentially allow alternative energy sources to prosper; solar is getting much, much better, for instance.

But I suspect the adjustment is going to be painful. Energy that's fundamentally thirty times as expensive as it is now is going to force enormous changes in the way our economies work. But that's one thing economies are very good at: adjusting to gradual change. It's the sudden changes that really cause problems.
posted by Malor at 12:22 PM on January 11, 2008


(well, to be fairer.... energy would need to be thirty times as expensive as it was when oil was at $20/bbl... so we've already climbed 5x up the 30x curve.)
posted by Malor at 12:24 PM on January 11, 2008


Power is going to get a lot more expensive unless we can figure out fusion, and that means badly declining living standards in most first-world countries.

I don't know.. Expensive energy will certainly reorganize the economy, and it will effect the standard of living of the upper third of income earners - families that aren't that rich, but still have three cars and a McMansion - but I'm not so sure about the rest. In the end, it all depends on how expensive and how quickly, of course.
posted by Chuckles at 1:52 PM on January 11, 2008


It's great that we might be able to recycle waste materials into energy, but concerns over how much energy it will take to run this process seems to neglect the fact that it took more energy to make all of this stuff in the first place. It's not as though tires grow in their final form on trees, right?
posted by drstrangelove at 2:57 PM on January 11, 2008


It's also not as though we're going to stop making tires anytime soon. May as well turn them into something useful when they're worn out.

net energy gain of this vs throwing them into a landfill = 100%. Probably more than 100%, if you factor in the cost of maintaining the landfills.
posted by ook at 3:29 PM on January 11, 2008


i think a few of you are missing the point. it's not that the world is going to be powered by trash disposers, it's that all these inert objects like tyres and plastics that would have sat in a landfill for 1000 years can now be broken down in a way that's very energy positive - enough, likely, to even make digging up old landfills cost effective, and, unlike burning, the byproducts are probably not nearly as nasty. i mean, we have to see it to be certain, but i think that's what's being got at. burning tyres might make a whole lot of energy, but only some of it is usable and the byproducts are nasty.

so, get rid of waste + make existing petrol use more efficient = good.

only question is whether it's real or not. now, i do have a problem with geof's comment. you really think if oil demand actually EVER (not likely) goes down, that OPEC would keep production constant? no way. they would slow it down to a) conserve resources and b) keep the price high. simple economics.
posted by Dillonlikescookies at 4:07 PM on January 11, 2008


ook: net energy gain of this vs throwing them into a landfill = 100%.
Sure, but in fact we try to keep tires out of landfills because they have their uses. If all the scrap tires were turned into fuel, the other practices that use old tires would become more expensive.
posted by Western Infidels at 4:07 PM on January 11, 2008


Oh good heavens. "Oh no! If this new recycling technique catches on, all the other recycling techniques might languish unused!"

Seriously? That's your argument?
posted by ook at 4:58 PM on January 11, 2008


What most people don't realize is that oil is, in fact, a renewable energy source. The problem is that it takes five hundred million years plus a mountain dropped on all our graves for it to be renewed. Yes, I'm being technical and sarcastic here, but as far as my understanding of the origins of petroleum fuels go, it's true.

If this works, I would not so much see this as a solution to any upcoming energy crises, as I would see it as a (possibly highly effective) stopgap. We still need to find something else to use to run cars and planes and water heaters. This just makes it hurt less in the meantime. Say Hello to the Petroleum Patch! Just attach it to your vehicle of choice and slowly reduce the dosage, and your car will soon be cured of its addiction to petroleum-based fuels. Either that, or go get a biodiesel engine installed.

What I do find particularly intriguing and slightly laughable) is the wording used in the discovery of this technology... He went home and threw bits of a tire in a microwave emitter he’d been working with for another project. It turned to what looked like ash, but a few hours later, he returned and found a black puddle on the floor of the unheated workshop. This implies that if his workshop had been heated, say to a temperature of some 400F, then the diesel molecules would have been at too high a temperature to be able to condense into their fluid form; they would have instead ignited and exploded in his face, and the secret of this technology might have been lost to us forever.
posted by Reth_Eldirood at 6:09 PM on January 11, 2008


Might be a chance that crude is also organically produced, ie. bacterially. Or so the Russians were hypothesizing. (Maybe not all of them, though.)

There is a Canadian company that has been doing hazardous waste disposal for the US Army, getting rid of things like poison gases, polluted soils, etc. Maybe their process is compatible with this guy's energy-extraction process.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:25 PM on January 11, 2008


ook: Oh good heavens. "Oh no! If this new recycling technique catches on, all the other recycling techniques might languish unused!" Seriously? That's your argument?
I wasn't looking for an argument, exactly. I'm just pointing out that old tires in particular are actually worth something, and partly as a consequence very few of them go into landfills these days. A tires-to-fuel process isn't going to be a goldmine.
posted by Western Infidels at 9:46 PM on January 11, 2008


Tires-to-fuel, maybe not a goldmine, no. Shale, granite, scrap plastic, vinyl, PVC, and so on, to fuel, more so. Tires were just one example given, but there's a whole lot more that can be broken down into component hydrocarbons. Heck, the computer setup you're sitting at right now, counting your keyboard, mouse, monitor, speakers, iPod, printer, CD and DVD cases, miscellaneous peripherals, and the wires attaching them to everything else, could probably be broken down into a not-insignificant amount of fuel. And then you've got scrap metal from those components after that, which can be used in other things. There's also the hard plastic packaging that most stuff comes in; think of how much shredded form-pressed plastic casing you all just threw into the garbage over the holiday while unwrapping your presents.

There are very few keyboard-recycling initiatives that I am aware of at this time.
posted by Reth_Eldirood at 1:44 PM on January 12, 2008


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